Feeling like she’s failed her kids

Dear Annie: I have two adult daughters, both married now. “Beth” lives nearby, but “Gina” moved across the country.

Beth was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder when she was in her early 20s. I think she suffered from it during childhood, but was undiagnosed. When they were children, I spent a great deal of time trying to calm Beth down and was aware that Gina did not get the same degree of attention. I tried to make up for it by doing things with Gina outside of the house. I became her Brownie troop leader and went on her class field trips. I made it my business to see that we had calm times together.

Now that Beth is on medication, she is a different person. But it may be too late. Gina doesn’t want to come home anymore because she says she doesn’t feel safe here. Gina tells me that she is being treated for PTSD due to verbal abuse and neglect she suffered as a child. She says I should have done a better job of protecting her. She hasn’t spoken to Beth in two years. I respect her feelings, but I don’t understand why she cannot forgive Beth knowing how ill she was.

Beth is expecting her second child, but I didn’t tell Gina, because I thought she wouldn’t care. Her grandmother spilled the beans, and now Gina thinks Beth was deliberately “getting even” because Gina didn’t invite Beth to her wedding.

I feel like such a failure. I am not getting any younger and worry that the two of them will air their dirty laundry at my funeral. I love both of my girls, but I don’t know how to resolve this. – Brokenhearted Mother

Dear Mother: Please stop beating yourself up. A child with behavioral issues is a tremendous challenge to parents and siblings alike. Even though Beth’s behavior was not your fault, Gina needs you to apologize for not giving her the childhood she thinks she deserved, and more importantly, Beth needs to reach out to her sister and ask for forgiveness. These small things can go a long way toward healing. Also ask whether Gina would seek counseling with you. Be patient, but don’t give up.

Editor’s note: Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. Email questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.